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Published on December 22, 2009

Wags Dogs Host Holiday Parade

Seventeen volunteers in Palos Community Hospital's Wags Animal-Assisted Therapy program held a Holiday Parade on December 22. Various areas of the hospital were treated to a special visit throughout the afternoon.

The Wags program recently celebrated its first anniversary. Since its launch in late 2008, more than 5,600 patient visits have been made and more than 30 dogs and their volunteer handlers are members of the program.

A visit from a friendly and affectionate pet can provide patients with an opportunity to focus on something other than their illness or injuries. Taking their minds off their discomfort can help make a hospital stay a bit less worrisome and frightening, and a bit more comforting, which in turn can help speed recovery.

"As they pet the dog and visit with the volunteer, patients relax, experiencing a more home-like atmosphere," explains Sister Anna Doyle, director of Pastoral Care. "It is a great morale booster which has shown in research to help lower blood pressure, promote a feeling of well-being and in some cases, stimulate patients' desires to become more engaged in their care." 

Like any type of nurturing physical or emotional contact, the unconditional love of an animal can actually have a positive impact on brain chemistry. As many staff and Wags volunteers have witnessed, patients often are happier and more cheerful after a visit. A more positive mood helps boost self-esteem and motivation, facilitates communication, and helps the patient become more receptive to care.

Wags is just one more way Palos Community Hospital provides quality care, not just for patients but for families as well. "We are fortunate to have found dedicated volunteers who have wonderful dogs that have a lot of love to share," explains Jill Beechler, co-coordinator of Wags.

For further information about Palos Community Hospital's Wags Animal-Assisted Therapy program call (708) 923-5593 or visit us online at PalosCommunityHospital.org/wags.